Cavendish leads Brit cycling contingent

With Great Britain expected to storm the cycling at London Games, pressure is mounting on Mark Cavendish and Chris Hoy.

    Cavendish leads Brit cycling contingent
    After the Tour De France, Cavendish (L) will set his sights on the Olympics [Reuters]

    Mark Cavendish will bear a huge responsibility when he starts the road race at the London Olympics as the world champion looks to kick off Britain's party on home soil before his team mates try to take the velodrome by storm.

    Four years after Team GB's impressive medal haul on the Beijing track, world champion Cavendish is the overwhelming favourite on the 250-km road race, which will award one of the very first medals of the July 27-August 12 Games.

    Britain will face stern competition from Australia on the road and the track, while France, Germany and the United States are also bringing strong contingents to London. The BMX and mountain bike events are wide open.

    Cavendish, who shed four kilos in order to make it easier to climb Box Hill, which the peloton will tackle nine times, is
    likely to battle it out for gold against Andre Greipel of Germany and Matthew Goss of Australia.

    "The road race is extremely important because it's one of the first events with one of UK's top sport personalities"

    David Millar

    Cavendish won the test event on the circuit last year but this time, instead of eight team mates to help him he will only have four. One of those will be David Millar, who was picked by team principal David Brailsford after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a British Olympic Association lifetime ban on former drug cheats.

    "The road race is extremely important because it's one of the first events with one of UK's top sport personalities," said Millar.

    Australian Goss said the Olympic competition would provide different challengers for the riders.

    "Mark is a huge favourite and I don't think pressure will be an issue. He can handle pressure," said Goss.

    "But the Olympics is a different type of race, there's only five riders in each team and you cannot count on the same kind of support, you're much more left to yourself."

    Emma Pooley and Bradley Wiggins also have medal chances on the time trial, but Britain's hopes are much higher on the track where in 2008, Team GB claimed seven out of 10 titles.

    However, with only one rider per nation now allowed in individual events, coupled with the track programme's overhaul,
    it will be difficult for Team GB to match that performance, especially since the individual pursuit was dropped from the
    London Games.

    Boiling velodrome

    The velodrome crowd, however, could be celebrating success for Chris Hoy again as the four-times Olympic champion is the hot favourite for the keirin event ahead of Australian Shane Perkins.

    Hoy or Jason Kenny will take the field in the individual sprint but both would have a hard time against world champion
    Gregory Bauge of France seems to be in a league of his own.

    France and Germany are likely to battle it out for gold in the team sprint event while Britain should settle for bronze.
    The team pursuit will bring the brand new velodrome to a boil with Britain looking to beat yet another world record to
    stay ahead of a strong Australian team.

    The temperature will also rise when nine-times world champion Victoria Pendleton continues her duel with Australian
    Anna Meares. The two rivals will face off in the team and individual sprints, as well as in the keirin.

    British 20-year-old Laura Trott will lead the team pursuit hoping to follow up on her Omnium world title, while Shanaze
    Reade has a chance of a medal in the BMX.

    Reade will have serious competition in the form of France's Magalie Pottier and Arielle Martin of the United States however.

    Maris Strombergs of Latvia will defend his BMX title with Joris Daudet of France, Australian Sam Willoughby and American Connor Fields also strong contenders.

    The mountain bike event will be the only cycling event to take place completely outside of London, on a technical 5.1-km, course in Hadleigh Farm in Essex.

    Frenchman Julien Absalon will be looking to win his third Olympic title in a row but this time he will have serious
    competition for the gold medal from Nino Schurter of Switzerland.

    The women's event is set to be a three-way battle between Frenchwoman Julie Bresset, Poland's Maja Wloszczowska and Canadian Catharine Pendrel.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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